As prescription drug abuse continues to rise, the need to raise awareness of methods to responsibly dispose of medications become more important. In 2015, more than 50,000 overdose deaths cost the United States (U.S.) $504 billion. Yet, in 2017, we continued to see drug overdose deaths rise to over 77,000.
Disposing of medications properly and routinely will help lessen the chances of abuse and improper discarding. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has developed easily accessible maps to help identify nearby locations for drug disposal. Finding a collection site is simple. Just visit www.michigan.gov/deqdrugdisposal, click on the map and enter your zip code or zoom to your location.
Once a convenient location is identified, click the location to see if it accepts controlled substances, solid medications, liquid medications, and/or needles for disposal.
Although medications play an important role in treating disease and improving our quality of life, they also pose a serious problem if they end up in the wrong hands. Medications left in the medicine cabinet are susceptible to misuse and abuse. Improperly disposed of drugs can also become an environmental problem.
Flushing unwanted medications down the drain is also not the safest or most appropriate means of disposal. When drugs are flushed, they end up in surface water and groundwater. In most cities and towns, homes are connected to wastewater treatment plants where medications pass right through the treatment systems into our lakes and rivers. When medications are disposed in landfills, they take the slow road to our waterways. As the trash decomposes, the medications break down and the biologically active chemicals in the medications get into the landfill leachate. That leachate is removed to maintain the landfill and protect groundwater. However, when leachate is treated before discharge, the treatment does not remove the medications. For homes with on-site septic systems, flushed medications go straight to the septic fields where they seep into the ground and can eventually get into the groundwater.
Take back locations collect unwanted medications and send them for disposal at an incinerator. The incinerators are permitted, have high enough temperatures and burn times to destroy the biologically active chemicals in the medications preventing them from reaching our lakes and rivers.
For more information on disposal of unwanted medications from households and healthcare, visit www.michigan.gov/deqdrugdisposal. For more information on fighting drug abuse or finding treatment help, go to www.michigan.gov/opioids.
Let's all play a role in the solution by routinely cleaning out our medicine cabinets and participating in medication take back programs. Help us share these resources on responsible drug disposal with Michigan residents, including friends, family and customers.
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